Category Archives: Think
My first idea of team came from sports. A few classmates who good at basketball or football gathered in the field to play against another class of students. We practiced, contributed, and had fun together. We consider each other more as friends than teammates. The team is part of the fun moment as we grown up.
Then we form teams to in order to complete different project assignments in university. We discussed ideas and present demo together. But the teams was either formed by random assignment or to fulfill the minimum head count requirements. Most of the work was done by a few As student, while the rest only cared to put their names into the final report. The team is a form for As student to practice what they learned in lecture and Cs student to pass their final exam.
After that, we joined working groups in corporate. Teams were formed based on functions or managers. We share common tasks and a common goal to complete them. We distribute information in order to separate responsibility and increase accountability. Teams often seated together and gathered afterwork to celebrate some events. In many cases, we also form cross functional teams for bigger projects. Ideas need to be discussed, knowledge need to be shared, agreement and compromise need to be achieved, decisions need to be made together. These teams can often be quite productive as we keep our communication professional and recorded.
The only thing I often feel missing is trust between members in such teams. I will trust my teammates expertise and skills, but I seldom feel, or rather expect, my teammates will behave on behalf of my best interest. I maybe wrong, or too suspicious, or simply ignored the good will from my them. But the fact that everyone stressed what ever arrangements that have been discussed and agreed must be recorded in minutes and broadcasted simply kills any minimum expectation I would have. The team is email lists and meeting attendant lists.
While everybody agrees team is such an important form for us to achieve anything significant, I often confused by those replacement of teams I experienced. Until recently, when I manage to link this word with a comic book and an online novel, I realized I am part of a “team” now.
On the Christmas, while others are celebrating and enjoying their gatherings. I carried my bag into our shared office. The campus was quite. I worked effectively until noon. While I was quite satisfied with the progress, I start to feel a bit lonely. I realized I haven’t talked since last evening after I ordered my dinner. It wasn’t a big deal for me in normal days as I spent a few weekend the same way while my wife was on business trip. I prefer working on my own projects or taking a few online courses to going out and chit-chat with friends.
However, the subtle feeling started to grow and I became unrested in my seat. I could not wave-off the loneliness by taking a nap and watching a few videos. Worse even, I started to have early symptom of fever in the afternoon. I left office before 5pm, had a quick dinner and fell asleep until the next morning. It was not a bad day in terms of the work I had done. But I realized I could not continue this way.
On the eve of New Year, I took a day off from work and went to the shared office same time in the morning. Different from a few days ago, people started to show up and occupy different corners of the room. We worked quietly on our own tasks. A few whispering and most commonly key board typing and mouse clicking filled the room. I found myself in a totally different mood after the same effective morning compare to Christmas. I still didn’t talk to anyone the whole morning. But the continuous and rhythmic typing and clicking reminded me that we are working on our target. It reminds me that I am not alone while exploring the unknowns.
At this moment, I realized the difference in this team compare to the rest I have joined. We discuss, document, and share our ideas to make sure we all have a common understanding instead of preventing others default on what they agreed. We work on our own schedule, come into office at our most comfortable time and leave while we are not productive anymore. We don’t have to apply leave and get approval, or fake MC to take one day off. We know others will still find their most productive way to work even if they are not seated in the office. Rather than expecting recognition or reward from my teammates, I am more looking forward the value we can create. I have no questions on my teammates’ intention to make something great by relying on our different skills.
I feel lucky and a great sense of happiness when looking at the crowded space we shared.
Where do I want to be 10 years from now?
I could continue to work as an employee in a few companies. With some luck, I may become a middle manager in charge of a few systems and leading a few teams. I may have higher pay and live in a larger house located at a better location and drive a better car that can be parked nearer to my office. I would be able to choose a better seat in the office (most likely at the corner near windows). I may get to evaluate the young and have the right to promote those I think performed better during the year.
But there are a few snapshot that I imaged if I follow that path made me laugh at myself. Yes, according to business convention here, bosses choose their seat window corner seat first. But due to some randomness, my boss’ boss is at 2 seats on my right near the window. As a result, he constantly needs to pull the curtain up and down to balance the reflection on his monitor. Well, because I seated far from the window, stable supply of electricity save me all those troubles.
And yes, the big boss have a fancy big house located in a well-established neighborhood. But excluding the 8 hours of sleeping time (may be less, assume 6 hours only), he can only enjoy 3~4 hours a day there, as I assume he would have to spend more than 12 hours near my seat during the day.
I assume he drives a fancy car as well, as I have yet to meet him while he is driving. He would have to make a tradeoff between how long he wants to stay in his big house or in his fancy car due the rush hour traffic in CBD.
What’s next? Oh, while I am waiting for his appraisal at the end of the year, he had just gone through his with his boss who is holding our feedback to him as well. And so far as I know, we get a big treat from him at year end, but he may not have such a generous boss.
Well, I can’t give an answer for the question in this post, but a general principle for the path I need to choose is to choose differently.
The lesson of Buffett was: To succeed in a spectacular fashion you had to be spectacularly unusual.
(Lewis, Michael (2010-05-12). The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine (p. 35). Norton. Kindle Edition.)
CAUTION: I am not criticizing people, I just record my imagination.
Many of my friends have converted their citizenship. Though China is developing fast and possesses bigger market and opportunities, Singapore as a city country still an unarguably better place to stay and work. The society is more secure, the salary is much higher, and the social relationship is more pleasant as opposed to the more complicated 人情 (relationships that we call “guan xi”) in China.
My main resistance for conversion lie in my national pride and my best wishes for the growth in China. This emotion is hard to express, but the thinking of giving up one’s own country doesn’t make me go easy. (I am not criticizing people who converted the citizenship. It is just a hard decision for me. And my difficulties are giving up is not without reasons.) Not just about the emotion connections, I also believe in the next 10~15 years, a Chinese passport will help me find the biggest goldmine to fulfill my dreams.
On the other hand, there are many reasons for citizenship conversion. Easier to travel, no visa is required for a Singapore Passport to vist most of the countries. It helps a lot for people who need to travel to different countries due to business reasons. It is especially attractive for people who owns “Hu Kou” from a not so well develop country side in China. Subsidized housing, Singaporeans enjoy heavy subsidize for purchasing HDB (government housing scheme) and less contraints for other real property investment. Subsidized childcare and mothercare after birth. The government give our strong incentives to local people give birth earlier and more. Cash and future education benefits are provided at the birth of the kid. A Singaporean mothers enjoys longer maternity leave as well as other medical expense coverage.
However, I guess the most compelling reason for most of my friends decision is the kids education. Compare to foreigners’ kids, citizens’ children enjoy every possible priorities to enter a more reputable primary schools. And for most oriented parants, kids are not supposed to lose their social competition at the starting line. Parants will seek every possible doors to increase the odds of their kids to be successful. Hence, converting to Singapore citizen and enjoy those “priorities” against foreigners is the first step.
During the discussion with my wife this morning, we suddenly realize the old saying “可怜天下父母心” (the hearts of parants everywhere). Parants always think about their kids and make decisions to maximize their well being. While our parants encourage or push us to convert in order to enjoy the stability and welfare of the country, we resist strongly with argument that we will be able to take care ourselves and benefits of new passport are not strong enough to cover our switching cost psychologically. When we start to think of having kids and raise them, their schooling opportunities become the single reason we need to rethink our previous decision.
We ignored advice from our parants, but considering making the exact decision for our kids.
My first 18 years are about “The Exam”. It was the clear grand target defined by parents, teachers, and the society. I made different kinds of experiments and countless effort in order to score well in the final exam that will lead me to a more prestige university. Sometimes, I went off track and indulge myself into games. Sometimes, I explored workarounds so that I can skip the final exam. I met important people that shaped by personality and destination to pursue.
The following 5 years in college was about locating my passion. I flew to another country and left my old memories and networks at home in order to avoid the sadness from broke up my immature romantic relationships. The obvious target disappeared and no longer defined by others. I switched courses a few times and finally identified areas that I want to focus and devote in. I met my wife during this time. The new relationship altered my perception to the world and supported me to go through many ups and downs. I felt supported even during the darkness moment since then.
After graduation, I spent another 3 years to master skills to survive in corporate and sharpened my saw for my own journey. I increased productivity by grasping the sense of urgency in business, enhanced my technical skills and communication skills as professionals. I met people who shared the same vision and worked on projects we passionate about.
And now, after 27 years of exploration and preparation, I am about to raise the sail and blow the whistle. It is the end of the beginning of journey. The more exciting part is coming.